Abusive Retaliation/Paybacks

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A phenomenon that victims experience, but don’t always have the words to express, is called Abusive Retaliation or Paybacks. Now, this may automatically leave us thinking about the courts and the retaliation a victim might experience after she reports, leaves or files for protection and yes, this retaliation is a well documented concern. However, Paybacks go on all throughout an abusive relationship. An abuser will always pay the victim back in order to teach her a lesson. That lesson might be to not ask him for anything, to not become too independent from him or just because he doesn’t like something that happened and he blames her for it. Retaliation rarely comes with communication or an explanation that the abuse is retaliating, however, the victim senses that that is exactly what is happening, even if she doesn’t have the words to express it.

Paybacks/retaliation is usually a passive aggressive, manipulative technique that is covert and insidious. That means that when you experience paybacks it is really hard, most of the time, to identify and express the mental crazy making it causes. Sometimes, paybacks are not passive aggressive, at all, but clear abusive retaliation that is openly97987aa62c4536c10908967d663ee34a identified by the abuser.

Payback and abusive retaliation can take many forms. Some are passive aggressive and some are overt abuse. Regardless of what form they take, the abuser expresses his displeasure, unhappiness, resentment, anger and lack of control through aggressive behavior.

  • Vagueness: Vagueness, if you can’t nail the abuser down to an exact answer, an exact story or an exact thought or feeling, then you are left guessing as to what they want. Their communication is so vague and so unclear that it creates more questions than answers. Ambiguous actions, words, looks, attitudes and body language are all effective ways of keeping the victim focused on the abuser, as well as keeping the abuser in control of how much information they are really sharing. Ambiguity can usually lead to more than one interpretation of what was said and, no matter what interpretation the victim chooses, she will be wrong.
  • Backdoor Conversation: This is a very annoying ploy for me personally. It happens when the abuser is making his point, but instead of saying what he means, they say what they DON’T mean and set a verbal trap for you to fall into. They want to refute their inference that you don’t want to be with them. They get offended if you accept that they want to break up with you instead of begging them to stay. A friend of mine’s abuser grabbed her by the shoulders and shouted “Now, you’re going to leave me!” as a way of manipulating her into promising to stay. Later, when she was ready to leave him, she had that promise hanging over her head and it made her pause. If you are a person, like I am, who takes people at their word, then this ambiguity is really hard to follow. It is a mind game, a trap, a way for the abuser to increase his self esteem, causing you to beg, refute and try to make them feel better about the imagined offense. You’ll keep guessing as to the real intent of their statement, question or action. Instead of authentic, upfront communication, the abuser tricks you into saying or doing exactly what they wanted all along. Its like they are a thief and they sneak into the conversation by the backdoor, high-jacking your honest attempts at communication.
  • Blaming: All abusers blame their behavior on the victim. They are incapable taking personal responsibility for anything. If it isn’t the victims fault, then its someone else’s fault. If you or someone does hold them accountable, they’ll become easily offended, as a way to heap on the guilt. Their boss, their teacher, the driver next to them….They use blame as a reason to retaliate against you and correct your many wrongs.
  • Denying Sex or Forcing Sex: Either one is wrong.  You messed up, so either you don’t get any when you want it or you get it when you don’t want it. He uses sex to teach you a lesson. This is one of the woC-RkVlbWsAACbInrst paybacks and with society’s willingness to victim blame ie. what were you wearing?  it can be an effective way for the abuser to get out of being blamed for hurting you.
  •  Emotional Shutdown:  Sometimes an abuser will pay you back by pretending to shut down their emotions about everything. You failed to respect, listen to them or rub their feet, so they no longer care about anything that has to do with you. He’ll refuse to give an opinion. He’ll neither smile, laugh, get angry or show any emotional response whatsoever. The message may even be that he doesn’t need you, doesn’t want to be around you and he could care less if he’s in a relationship with you. He may be super accommodating and at the same time become so distant that you begin to doubt the relationship. He might also give you the silent treatment, as though you aren’t worth talking to or that you don’t exist.  Once you express your doubts, he’ll let you know that the whole emotional shutdown was your fault to begin with, or deny he’s done it at all and accuse you of being “too sensitive”. You have to give him exactly what he wants in order to keep him engaged.
  • Financial payments – The abuser may stop paying for anything, their part of the bills, your support, for the children. If you get a job, he’ll start charging you for your portion of the bills and bill you for things he had given you before you started working. My ex called it ‘my debt to the family’. He’ll make it very difficult for you to get a job, keep a job or keep your money. He’ll always find a way to take your money and ‘pay him back’. My ex also refused to pay for our minivan and for any child support after I left him. He wanted me to pay him for the van payments.
  • Forgetfulness/Lateness:  Is a very convenient way of paying someone back. Did he promise to pick you up at work but this weekend you got into a fight about how many hours you are away from home? He pays you back by forgetting to come and get you. He tries to make his point by explaining that your hours are so long and irregular, how is he supposed to keep up with them? I learned not to suggest outings for our family.My ex used to rush us all into the car before church and make us sit there for up to an hour, while he sat at his desk to pay tithe saying that we were too loud for him to concentrate. If we went somewhere as a family, and it was my idea, we’d always show up late, usually so late that the event was ending when we arrived. I learned not to suggest outings for our family.
  • Impending Doom: The abuser uses facial expressions, body language and attitudes to clearly give you the message that you are going to pay. You don’t know when and you don’t know how but the knot in your stomach and the ache in your head warns you that something unpleasant is coming.
  • Obstructionism/procrastinating/Ineptness:  Do you want something from your abuser? You wont get it. He will promise it. Talk about it. Make plans for it. You’ll either hear every excuse as a reason you aren’t getting what you agreed upon or he’ll just never follow through. Another thing an abuser will do to pay you back for asking, is to do what you asked but in a shoddy, inept way. This forces you to complain or redo it yourself or just choose to ‘let it go’. My friend’s ex promised to do the dishes if she sat in the kitchen to talk with him, then berated and verbally abused her the entire time. If you call them on their inept actions, you’ll be told not to complain because at least they are ‘trying’. They put forth the effort, if you are going to complain, then they wont even TRY! In the end, no matter if they obstruct, procrastinate or become inept, you’ll be waiting forever. As the saying goes, “Don’t tie your horse to someone else’s wagon.”
  • Physical Violence: He may be physically intimidating to scare you. He may physically hold you down, lock you in, throw things at you, spit at your or even threaten to do so. He may hit the wall, crash the car or flip over furniture. He may hit you, punch, pinch, slap or push/throw you. He may hurt your animals or break your belongings. He may threaten or hurt the children.lunch menu.jpg
  • Stubbornness/Argumentative/ Sulky/ Hostile: Unfortunately it is common for an abuser to pay you back by being stubborn, digging in their heals and making it impossible to communicate or complete a project. They may do this by arguing about everything. They’ll challenge you at every turn, making your life miserable. If that doesn’t work, they’ll sulk. They’ll have a little pity party, go off by themselves and act like the victim. Finally, if you still don’t respond, they’ll become openly hostile. They’ll call names and/or become verbally or physically violent .

No matter what kind of payback or retaliation your abuser uses, You Do Not Deserve It. They do these things to as a way of controlling you, knowing that these actions will eventually make their victim feel crazy. The Abusers enjoy watching their victim suffer emotionally.  Their paybacks discourage trust, discourage mutual respect, discourage relational give and take. Retaliation sets the abuser up to only receive what they want, and releases them from having to give their victim anything in return. Feeling the need to pay someone back for a slight or wrong, real or imagined, is immature. Those attitudes express entitlement and selfishness. A mature person will not give into these desires.

In a grown up, healthy relationship, adults are supposed to be able to communicate clearly and honestly with one another. Clear and Honest communication reinforces feelings of trust and love. Being in a trusting and loving relationship encourages healthy, emotional bonding.  If our relationships are healthy and based on mutual respect and good intent for each other, imagine how our children will view the world as they grow up. They will learn effective communication. They’ll have healthy bonds with both parents. They’ll engage with the world in respectful, insightful and healthy ways.

If this blog post has resonated with you; if you have a story about one or more of these types of paybacks/retaliation, please share in the comments! We’d love to engage in healthy conversation and respectful discussion about our abusive experiences!!

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15 thoughts on “Abusive Retaliation/Paybacks

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  1. Reading this is so much like reliving life with my ex. It was always someone else’s fault, he broke his hand punching the car when he was mad at me one day, I was ignored until he wanted something, and even asked me to turn off the tv if it bothered him even though he was occupied doing something completely different. He never helped but always complained I didn’t do enough. He never admitted to being wrong but always twisted it somehow until I was admitting I was the one who was wrong, and apologizing for upsetting him… I never figured out how to discuss something with him without it ending up being my fault.

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      1. It’s as if the writer sat and took notes on my relationship with my husband. If I ever had any doubts, they’re gone now. None of what I’ve been through is normal. I always thought, like many others, ” this is normal” the way I was being treated.

        I’m honestly scared to meet anyone now. Thinking there’s always this hidden agenda or why are the being so nice? And so on. My way of thinking has been forever changed. So messed up!!

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      2. Thank you Christiana for your comments. I am glad that this post validated some of your experiences. You are very wise to wait before you go into another relationship. Healing takes time and you are the very best judge of when you are ready!!

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  2. My ex does this all the time he refuses to help pay for anything for our daughter, he never pays me back for money I give him but promises to then says oh well you owe me for this this and this so we’re even, but when I said I’d pay back even 5 dollars he Gets his measly 5 dollars!!!
    He just smashed my 50 inch tv 2 nights ago among other items ten pushed me onto the ground into the glass and left and at the end of it it was all my fault because I did not BEG him to stay I told him to do what he wanted and I knew he got so angry because I always beg and plead for him to stay.
    Thank you for writing this article I’m going to print it off and hang it on my wall for a daily reminder!! I need the strength that I know I have to get out!!

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    1. Joanne I am so glad you wrote! How horrible of him to treat you that way! I encourage you to reach out to your local women’s shelter. You do not have to go into shelter to receive services like counseling, safety planning and other resources. Please made sure you also have the DV hotline 1 800 799 SAFE written down and available. They are there 24/7 for any reason! God Bless!

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  3. These are all so familiar to me as I was the victim of Narcissistic abuse for many years. It was articles like this that showed me what was normal and how far my ex had veered from it. Keep up the good work! These articles are important !

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  4. This was so good, Taffy! You are making a difference for women, and men, who need to clearly understand what abuse really is. I know this is mostly advice for marriage and dating, but I read this article with my narcissistic mother in mind, and found several things in your article, which were and still are, her exact tactics for abusive payback. They came in my life whenever I tried to stick up for myself or establish my independence. They also came when I started sharing the truth about my childhood on my blog, in order to help others find freedom from pain and abuse, through the love of Christ. Eventually I was left with no choice but to go no-contact, because of the terrible way she treated me; the horrible things she said to me in emails, the threats, the lies she told (and still does) behind my back. Leaving an abusive situation is difficult, but it’s Hell if you stay in it. I’m so glad you are helping abuse victims. I am also helping abuse victims, especially those who have been victims of narcissistic abuse. I’ll share The Silver Lining link here, so readers can visit my blog and click on the topics: “narcissism” and “spiritual abuse.” At angelaslittleattic.com, I seek to give people hope in Jesus Christ, so they can find healing, joy, and freedom. My topic this month on my Facebook ministry page is COURAGE. I was honored to share your previous post about backhanded “compliments,” and I’ll be sharing your post at http://www.facebook.com/angelaslittleattic.com. It’s so important that people understand the signs of abuse. I grew up for years and years, never realizing what a tramautic situation I was living in; a child being neglected, with love withheld every single day. Those the emotional abuse was the worst, there was also some physical abuse. And just like in most of these situations, several don’t believe me. But more DO believe me. And most of all, God believes me! I lived for years wondering what was “wrong” with me; why I was so depressed, why my mother was so displeased with me all the time, why she was never in my side; until God got me out of my situation; first through marriage, then through my husband and I moving out of state, and really pursuing Jesus. Without God’s leading I never would have figured out that I was being abused as a child, and even as an adult. There are still people who are no longer in my life because they are angry with me… they don’t see the abuse! They never did! They never will, unless they choose to pursue JESUS and ask him to help them understand. What’s pitiful, is that these people are being abused in a way too. They’ve been trained; they are bewitched, and they don’t even know they are being used! That’s how narcissistic abuse works. You even used the same word I use: “insidious.” Abuse is so deceitful! I’m so thankful for a Savior who loves me, and I’m thankful that it is NOT God’s will for His children to be abused! I’m honored to be your friend… May God bless you and your ministry, Taffy, in Jesus’ holy name!

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  5. Holiday’s have always been very important for my family. We always spend time together and enjoy a nice meal and each others company. Then the narc come along. EVERY single holiday or family gathering was a fiasco, including the death and burial of my daughter. He either caused family drama or would get angry over some made up offence and leave, texting me every 2 minutes telling me it’s all my fault he’s not there. He actually locked me out of the house on the night of my daughters burial…. because I was being too bitchy and confrontational (really? I was blindsided, devastated, heartbroken, needed him more then then ever). In all actuality I tried to avoid confrontation at all cost. I ended up spending the night in a hotel alone. His house was HIS house, it didn’t matter that I paid half the house payment and bills, our things were HIS things and His things were HIs things. He always wanted a pat on the back for “letting me” have my family over or doing something with my kids. Problems were much less before we got married, then boom, the real Mike started showing up. Screaming at me for hours on end, keeping me up all hours of the night turning the lights on and screaming. Told me to get off my ass and stop feeling sorry for myself. I left him after 10 months of marriage and until I left, I never realized the extent of his abuse until I was gone and started processing everything. I was finally able to start processing my daughters death and mourn the way any mother would without being called crazy. Thank you for taking the time to help those of us who are not as far on our journey as you are.

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